A desire to help others was the underlying reason for Brian Archbold, of Balclutha, taking up the role of Justice of the Peace (JP) 36 years ago.
‘‘I was working at the freezer then and we used JPs to help meat inspectors get meat certified for export,’’ he said.
‘‘The retiring JP there put my name forward so I took up the appointment and have loved it ever since.’’
Mr Archbold went on to become a successful businessman in Balclutha, before retiring, and he remains a JP today.
He said the role of a JP was a purely volunteer position and anyone considering it had to consider the time commitment it took.
‘‘When I started, judicial JPs took local court sessions covering minor traffic offences, depositions, remands and issued search warrants, but when the courthouse here closed I moved away from that role.
‘‘We also had to undertake deputy coroner jobs here before the new coroners service came along.’’
In New Zealand, JPs can be involved in either ministerial or judicial duties.
Ministerial JPs have no inherent jurisdiction and may exercise only those powers given to them by legislation. Their duties include witnessing documents, taking declarations, swearing affidavits and affirming affirmations.
The functions of judicial JPs at the district court level involve jurisdiction over minor offences and some traffic cases, issue of remands and bail, hearing of undefended cases and, if called upon, presiding over defended trials.
‘‘To become a judicial JP you have to go on much longer courses and then be sworn into office by a District Court judge,’’ Mr Archbold said.
‘‘Today most JPs act as trusted persons recognised by the courts to assist people with legal documentation, verification of identity and help others work with governmental and social agencies.
‘‘It’s fun and very rewarding work,’’ he said.
‘‘I have met so many of the Balclutha community over the years and I still love doing it.’’
South Otago Justices of the Peace Association chairwoman Jill McIntosh, of Milton, praised Mr Archbold for the mentorship he had offered over the years to newly minted JPs.
‘‘There are currently 33 JPs in the Clutha district and we are appointed for life, but you can retire after 10 years,’’ she said.
The service was always looking for younger JPs, but people needed to be aware of the commitment required, she said.
‘‘We often ask suitable people to join, but it’s not for everyone as a lot of training is required and the whole process can take several years.’’
South Otago High School deputy principal John Douglas knows just how long it takes, as one of the district’s newer JPs.
‘‘Overall it took nearly two years from when I first applied three years ago until I officially became a JP,’’ he said.
‘‘It required a lot of study, which I enjoyed, and since then I have met so many new people in the community.’’
Mrs McIntosh said JPs did not give legal advice, did not make house calls and — to dispel another urban myth — did not marry people.
‘‘But we are here to help you as best we can.’’